Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Mrs. louise brun

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(Behind the scenes)
Farewell, farewell,
From friends, from all, from fatherland!
Your soul's calm power is from us riven,
Your words, your song, to spirit's praise
In art's glad temple given.

We thank you that with youthful fire
You came the doubting to inspire,
Who anxious stood with strength untried!

We thank you that in morning-dawn
Your woman's tact and aid were drawn
Our boisterous youthful art to guide!

Thanks for the spring of your life's year,
Thanks for the tones so sweet and clear,
Thanks for the tints of pearly hue,
That colored all you touched anew.
For all your noble life on earth,
Thanks, thanks!
And that you gave our calling worth,
Thanks, thanks!

'T is but a short time since we saw pass by
A picture drawn from life, austere and dark,
A soul in servitude to strong desires;
And all its life in prison-labor spent.
Although religion prays and sings its hymns,
And poetry and art their sunshine spread,
That soul in slavery toils, till white the hair.

She, in whose memory we gather here,
Was early made to feel by hard conditions,
That clouded life and rudely barred her soul,--
How men and women live as toiling slaves!
And she rebelled against this servitude;
Great powers have birth to longings for the light;
Freedom she craved, that others she might free!
With restless spirit outward went her quest
To people, books; but thoughtful she became,
As one whose search was vain; reserved and shy,
As one whose courage fails;--until one day
He, who from fairy-tale and hero-legend
That wondrous bow received of magic might,
Stood up and to the vale and mountain played:
"Come forth, come from our nation's heart-deep forth,
Creative might, that in our nation's morning
Didst lift its image up to dread, to greatness,
In myths of Asas fair and giants grim!
As mountain-walls lean o'er their own reflection,
In that thought-ocean we our life could see,
With spring, with winter, and with spring again.
Thou gav'st our image oft in song and story,
In times of darkness and in times of light;
Our image meets us wheresoe'er we go,--
But yet our nation sees it not, nor looks
Up from its toiling thoughts and dull routine!--
Oh, wake it, lift it, make it see itself!
Then shall it put to use the powers it owns!"

And living echoes answered! Lo, there swarmed
Elves of the Stage about him, as he played!
They made the lamps to burn, and reared the grotto,
They brought and brushed the costumes Holberg knew,
And in them played their pranks 'neath powdered wigs,--
Roamed on the mountains of a summer night
And stole the saeter-maiden while she slept,
And filled with mortal fear the aged wooer!
They danced the goblin-dance in dusk of winter,
Played hide-and-seek with their own shadows;
They snared the hypocrite in his own sighs,
In his own web the pettifogger bound;
They scattered wide the hoard a miser gathered,
They tripped and threw the petty parish-pope
They saved the tears of innocence seduced
And on the altar laid as lustrous pearls;
They melted hatred in the ice-hard breast,
It fell as rain upon the enemy's fields;
They bound the slanderer, Mazeppa-like,
Upon the back of his wild calumnies;--
The crafty man of stealthy selfishness
They set afloat within an open boat;--
But one who freely gave himself, his all,
They bore to heaven upon their joyous laughter.
They drew the magic ring round those who loved,
And to the altar led the blushing pair.
They brought heroic forms from barrows old
To tower in might among the teeming present.
--There was not one could longer rest in peace;
Himself, his folly, all our country's need,
Wholeness victorious, halfness doomed to fail,
The power of honest faith, the wreck of doubt,--
All this our nation saw in its own image,
When strongly lighted on the Stage 't was set.--

And she was part of this! The first full tone
Thrilled her breast too and woke a thousand mem'ries
Of something that she ne'er before had known!
On that first evening, when the curtain rose,
With timid step one clad in white came forth
And begged for Norway's art, for our young drama
A home in Norway,--but with so great fear,
The gentle voice was trembling, dim the eyes;
Yet from the voice, the eyes, the form, the bearing
Was heard a promise in sweet modesty;
For she who spoke those first words on this Stage,
That maiden dark with eyes so deep and true,
Lo, it was she!

And soon her art shone clear
And softly radiant through the evening hours.--
With fairy lightness fell its magic gleams
On hidden longings, sorrows half-concealed,--
But gently, tenderly. If joy she touched,
'T was always softly. But we all could feel
A stream of power so full, that if she had
In an unguarded hour let it flow free
With all its deep and swelling tide sincere,
It would have borne herself from earth away.

In truth, the calmness of her course through life
Was never weakness, but was strength controlled;
Was never fear, but veneration deep
For those whose souls are great: a model she
For noble women as for forceful men,--
This wreath we weave for her pure memory.

But what she thus had early taught herself,
She taught to others. When upon the stage
She stood, depicting woman's painful conflict
With rudeness, violence, and wild desire,
Then,--though she wielded but a woman's weapons,
Her silent dignity, her subtle smile,
Her light derision, all-subduing laughter,--
A spirit-dawn gleamed from their flashing play,
To usher in a day of victory.
She barriers raised around the woman weak
(Down-trodden in a half-built social order),
She stood forth here so many an evening-hour
And talked to thousands of a woman's worth.
though her call was not fully to free
All that a woman's heart may hope and dream,
She shielded it secure in all its beauty.

This conflict made her reticent, severe;--
But sometimes in a song her spirit could
Send forth glad tidings, messages of freedom,
Her large free soul revealing. Then we heard
Such longing after full, unbroken peace,
Our thoughts were captive held by sad foreboding.--

'T is now come true!--The crape of mourning droops
About her name, the tolling bell is still.
Her final summons gather us once more
Before her stage, and here our thanks we utter
For what she gave us. So as she had given,
Has no one given. She gave of her sorrow,
With bleeding heart beneath her winsome smile.
She shared with us the tears her conflict brought,
The radiant glory of her victory.

Thanks, prayer-borne thanks, you noble soul,
From all your brothers, from your sisters all!
From Norway's youthful art enduring thanks!
From women to their pure interpreter
Farewell and thanks!--From all those whom you lifted
On pinions of the spirit high to beauty
Once more a wreath is brought,--it is the last.

(Laying it before the bust)
Now God in His bright heaven makes you glad,
And we will make you glad with good remembrance.

(Behind the scenes, softly)
Farewell, farewell!
Now in your grave
No want is known;
But what you gave,
We ever own.
Your spirit's seed
Shall blossom here,
Bear fruit in deed,
And sad hearts cheer.

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson